• First Mathematics, Then Music: J. S. Bach, Glenn Gould, and the Evolutionary Supergenius in The Outer Limits' "The Sixth Finger" (1963)

    Reba Wissner (see profile)
    Science fiction, Music, United States, Twentieth century, Television
    Item Type:
    The Outer Limits, Genius, 20th-century American music
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    In a 1963 episode of The Outer Limits called “The Sixth Finger,” Gwyllm Griffiths (David McCallum) volunteers for a scientist who has found a way to advance man’s evolution by over one million years, thereby creating human supergeniuses with an aptitude for rapid learning and enhanced mental capacity. The final script was ten minutes too short for its time slot, so the production team had to come up with an inexpensive way to fill that space. Since Gwyllm has mastered mathematics, series co-creator Joseph Stefano felt that the next logical step would be mastery of music. Stefano immediately wrote a five-page insert in which Gwyllm plays several preludes and a fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I since he felt they represented musical genius. The production team chose Glenn Gould’s then-new recording of the pieces, notable for Gould’s rapid performance speed. Gwyllm then mimed playing at this accelerated pace to represent his sudden musical adeptness. Studies have been conducted on Bach as a musical genius, the virtuosity necessary to play his music, and Gould’s virtuosic, intellectual performances of Bach’s music, but none have examined all three in tandem, especially in the context of a television episode. This essay discusses Bach’s music as an embodiment of virtuosity and as a cultural representation of genius in “The Sixth Finger.” The choice to use Bach’s music in the visual context of television adds another dimension to the concept of genius, exemplifying both virtuosity and a specific composer whose music transcends time.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    4 years ago
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